Kei Kusuma’s ‘Ultrablack’ lights Sin City Gallery’s way forward

Kesuma’s “No More Peace”
Photo: Mikayla Whitmore

In April 2016, Sin City Gallery presented Immersive, an ambitious art show that filled not only Sin City’s Arts Factory space but the parking lot outside. The event’s eye-catching poster featured a Kei Kusuma work titled “Spoiled Ram”—a striking ink-and-paper illustration of a wide-eyed woman emerging from a wall of black flowers, a grinning animal peering over her head like the Cheshire Cat.

Kusuma, an Indonesian artist, had previously won the grand prize of Sin City’s annual juried show 12 Inches of Sin; his art is a perfect example of the kind of provocative work Sin City gallerist Laura Henkel routinely sources out for Vegas audiences. And it’s only fitting that a Kusuma solo show, Ultrablack, comes to Sin City just as the gallery prepares to venture out into the world once again—this time more decisively.

“I’m going to be a kunsthalle for a while,” Henkel says, using the German word for a non-collecting art institution. What that means to Vegas is that Kusuma’s show is going to be the last one in Sin City’s Arts Factory space. After Ultrablack closes June 24 (and the gallery space itself closes July 31), Henkel will concentrate her efforts on holding “more dynamic” art events that could never fit into Sin City’s tiny space. For example: The sixth version of 12 Inches of Sin will fill an entire weekend (July 21-23), include burlesque, drag and shibari performances and happen in a “speakeasy”-like location. (Further details will be announced soon.) Henkel will also continue to run her management and creative services company, ArtCulture PR.

“The gallery isn’t closing; it’s morphing,” Henkel says. “I couldn’t be more excited about the opportunity to present bigger exhibitions and more immersive experiences combining visual and performance art, as well as the ability to show anywhere in the world.”

But that’s tomorrow. Today, Sin City is all about Kei Kusuma, whose black ink illustrations will seduce First Friday visitors like a proper summer romance. The subject of the richly detailed “Midnight Zoo” takes a casual stroll through an animal refuge, wearing a horned hat, a chastity belt and not much else. The disembodied, Medusa-like head of “No More Peace” dreams of swords, as too many of us do these days. Ultrablack could hardly be more appropriate for Sin City Gallery, both as a last look and a preview of some exciting coming attractions.

Kei Kusuma: Ultrablack Through June 24, by appointment only, free. Sin City Gallery, Arts Factory, 107 E Charleston Blvd. #100, 702-608-2461.

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